Terminology from the Age of Sail

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Apeak: When an object such as an anchor or an oar is in a vertical position (straight-up). The anchor was said to be apeak when directly under the hawse. When oars where apeak, they were held straight up.
Articles: Signed documents indicating a crew member's responsibilities, duties, rank and/or position on board a ship.
Barge: A 17th century long and narrow ship's boat, rowed by 10 to 20 oars, often used to transport senior officers.
Becket: A looped rope, with a knot on one end and an eye at the other end, used to secure loose ropes, spars, or oars.
Belaying Pin: A removable wooden, iron or brass pin fitted in a hole in the rail of a ship, used for securing and tying the running rigging. They were also handy clubs in case of hand-to-hand combat during boarding. Also called tack pin or jack pin.
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Berth: 1.Sufficient space for a ship to maneuver. 2.A space for a ship to dock or anchor. 3.Employment on a ship. 4.Another term for bunk or bed onboard a ship.
Bireme: An ancient Greek or Roman war galley propelled by two tiers of oars on each side.
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Bitter End: The inboard end of a rope or (anchor) cable, receiving its name from that end being wound around a bitt.
Boarding: To go or come aboard a ship is to enter by invitation or consent. To board a ship is to force one's way onto a ship without consent.

Boarding a vessel
Boejer: A small single-masted Dutch vessel with an extreme rounded stern and bow, normally carrying leeboards. It had a very shallow draft but a relatively tall mast, intended for use on canals, rivers and coastal regions.

image of boejer
Broadside: 1. The simultaneous discharge of some or all of the port or starboard guns. 2. The side of a ship.
Bulwark: The planking along the sides of a ship, above the upper deck and below the gunwales, to act as a railing to prevent crew and passengers from falling or being washed overboard.
Bunk: A built-in wooden bed on board of later ships, often built in tiers, one above the other.
Cat O' Nine Tails: A whip made from unraveling a rope's strands (3x3). Used as punishment for a variety of offences aboard a Naval ship. Also called 'Captains Daughter'.
Centerboard: A type of retractable keel used on sailing vessels to prevent drifting downwind. Also known as a drop keel.
Chesstree: A timber fitted on the outside of the hull, just below the gunwale. It had one or more holes with internal rollers or pulleys through which the main tack or sheets were hauled from within board.
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Dutch fashion chesstree ornamented with overlapping scales.
Come About: To change tack and thus the direction or course of a sailing vessel. In other words: changing the position of the vessel and the sails for the wind to come in from the opposite direction, from starboard to port and vice versa. 'Ducking under the boom' comes to mind as an illustration.
Dory: A small, narrow, flat-bottomed and shallow draft boat of between 15 to 20 ft in length, usually with high sides and a sharp prow, propelled by oars. Also spelled Dorey (British).

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Freeboard: The distance from the waterline to the upper deck level, measured at the waist.
Furring: The re-planking of a vessel to give her more beam and freeboard.
Galleas: A large, three-masted galley/galleon hybrid of the 16th and 17th centuries that used both sails and oars. Derived from earlier galleys, they were powerful warships of the day, very successful at the Battle of Lepanto, 1571. The image directly below depicts an artists impression of a Spanish armada galleas in typical medieval fashion. The image at the bottom shows a lateen-rigged galleas.

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Examples of a galleas
Galley: An oared fighting ship used mainly in the Mediterranean from many centuries BC until well into the 18th century. They were also used in the Baltic and by other northern European nations, just not to the same extent and duration as in the Mediterranean.

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A galley a scaloccio is rowed by groups of three, five or seven men on a bench pulling a single oar, and a galley ala sensile has a single rower per oar, possibly two or three men to a bench (a terzaruolo). The top speed of a galley under full-oar has been estimated to be 7 or 8 knots.

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Maltese galley at anchor - plate (G. Tagliagambe/Antonio Suntach) from around 1780 - 1800.

Examples of a galley
Gangplank: A plank, board or ramp used for boarding or disembarking a ship.
Garboard: The first plank on the outer hull next to the keel.
Hawse: Location at the bow of a ship where the hawseholes are located. A ship is also said to be riding to hawse when moored with both starboard and port bow anchors out.
Hemp: Tough, coarse fibers of the cannabis plant, used to make cordage or rope. Also used in creating oakum
Inboard: The inside of the structural area of a vessel and the opposite of outboard.
Interscalm: The minimum distance between rowers or oarsmen when viewing a ship or boat from the side. The interscalm is sometimes used to estimate the length of ancient galleys and other rowed vessels. Often a little more or less than a meter.
Jack: 1. A sailor. Also 'Jack Tar', referring to the over-abundant use of tar as a water-repelling preservative aboard a wooden sailing ship. 2. A relatively small flag flown at the bow of a ship, usually to indicate nationality.
Jigger: A piece of rope about five feet long, with a block at one end and a sheave at the other. Used to pull back (tension) the hind part of a cable, when it is pulled aboard ship by means of a windlass.
Jolly Boat: All purpose boat onboard a ship.
Keel-hauling: Punishment for various offences onboard a ship. The offender was plunged repeatedly under the bottom of the ship on one side and then pulled up on the other side of the ship, after having passed under the keel. Particularly cruel treatment since the victim would contact the rough hull repeatedly and mind-numbing cold seawater would often only add to the misery. Originally a term for careening.
Knarr: A clinker built Viking merchant ship, exceptionally sturdy in rough seas. Broader in the beam and more draught than a longship. They were also more reliant on the use of sails for propulsion, rather than oars. Also Knorr.
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Larboard: The old name for the left hand side of a ship. Larboard was officially changed to 'port' in 1844, to avoid confusion with starboard. Larboard refers to the loading side of a ship, as apposed to steerboard.
Leeboard: Leeboards are lobe-shaped boards lowered from either side of a vessel acting as large oars to minimize drifting.
List: A ship that leans to one side is said to be listing: The heavily overloaded galleon listed badly to larboard.
Longship: Langskip. Generally thought of as the Viking war ship. It was a 45–148ft (14–45m) galley with up to 40 oars on each side, a square sail on a removable mast, and a 40–80 man capacity. Double-ended and built shell-first with overlapping planks (clinker built).
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Longboat: The largest boat carried aboard a larger sea going vessel. Propelled by sail or oars.

image of longboat
Lumber Iron: A forked iron crutch or stanchion, usually located upright on the gunwales, to hold oars or extra spars.
Midshipman: Naval cadet, appointed by the Captain of a sailing warship, to second the orders of the superior officers, and assist with whatever needs to be done, either onboard the ship or ashore.

Midshipman
Oar: A wooden lever used to steer or propel (sculling or rowing) a boat through the water. A rowing or sculling oar generally consists of three parts; a broad blade that makes contact with the water; the shaft, the main length of the oar; and the loom or handle.

See also rowlock
Overboard: Generally a very, very bad thing. Closely related to drowning.
Penteconter: An ancient Greek galley with 50 oars, 25 each side set in a single bank.
Pillow: A block of timber fixed to the deck of a sailing vessel just inside the bow on which the inboard end of the bowsprit rests.
Pinnace: 1. A variety of relatively small sailing vessels having generally two fore-and-aft rigged masts. 2. A 17th century ship's boat, usually rowed with eight oars.

image of pinnace


Examples of a pinnace
Pitch: A mixture of boiled tar and coarse resin. Also a term for a ship's rotational motion, the rise and fall of the bow and stern.
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Polyreme: A variety of large Phoenician, Greek or Roman war galleys. In these large 'Polyremes', there were only two levels of oars, each being rowed by half the men indicated by the number. For instance, in an octoreme (8), there were 2 banks of oars, each rowed by 4 men, on each side of the ship. In a 'decareme' (10), each oar was manned by 5.
Port: The left hand side of a ship, looking from aft forward. Formerly called larboard.
Privateer: A person or private vessel intent on raiding enemy shipping in wartime for the purpose of making a profit from the sale of captured ships, including whatever cargo would be onboard. A privateer could be described as a commissioned pirate. Dangerous business all-around, often a privateer would mistake a 'friendly' ship for fair game with the consequence of rapidly being 'promoted' from privateer to pirate.

Examples of privateers
Quarter: 1. The after parts of the ship on each side of the centerline. 2. Work-shift on board a sailing vessel, continual 24/7 rotation of a 4 hour work-shift followed by a 4 hour rest period in a normal two quarters setup. Also called 'Quarter Watch' on a Man O'War.
Quinquereme: A Mediterranean war galley having three banks of oars, the oars on the top two levels being pulled by two men each, the lower level oar being pulled by a single man. The quinquereme (5 rowers) was developed from the earlier trireme, rowed by three levels (or banks) of oars, each rowed by a single man. It was used by the Greeks of the Hellenistic period and later by the Carthaginians and Romans, from the 4th century BC to about the 1st century AD.
Rabbet: A notch in a piece of timber made to receive the ends or sides of planks which are to be secured to it. For example a keel was rabbeted to receive the sides of the garboard strake and a breast hook was rabbeted to receive the ends of deck planking.
Ro: A traditional Japanese sculling oar, similar to the Chinese yuloh.
Rowlock: A U-shaped or O-shaped hole cut in the gunwale of a ship's boat where an oar is located, or any of a number of devices providing a pivot point for an oar while rowing. Often it consisted of a swiveling, U-shaped or O-shaped holder located just above the gunwale. Also called oarlock.

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Images courtesy of Leen van den Berg

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Rudder: Also formerly spelled 'rother'. The means of giving direction to a ship under way. Around the mid-14th century changed from an oar rudder, hung from the side of a ship, to a fixed stern rudder. The latter being a flat paddle, hung and hinging from the sternpost. See gudgeon and pintle. This pivoting lateral movement was transmitted to the rudder by a wheel, tiller and/or a rope and pulley system, depending on the ship's size and time period.

image of helm system
Rope and pulley tiller system for rudder movement
Scow Schooner: A flat-bottomed square-ended schooner-rigged vessel used mainly in the latter half of the 19th century on the Great Lakes and North-American coastal routes. Scow schooners often used centerboards or leeboards and the name scow refers to the shape of the hull. Scow schooners carried the bulk of cargo in North-America during the 19th century.

Examples of a scow schooner
Scrive Board: A platform of boards to draw or scrive full-scale lines and moulds, showing the length and shape of all frames and beams.
Sculling Oar: A large oar used for propelling a boat by moving it from side to side, called sculling; also used as a rudder.
Shallop: 1.A two-masted ship usually carrying lugsails. 2.A 17th century ship's boat, used as a tender. Shallops had no keel but used leeboards instead. A shallop could be propelled by oars or sails. See image below.

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Shanghai: To take someone against their will for compulsory service on board a ship; "The men were shanghaied after being drugged".
Sheathing: To protect the hull of a wooden ship against wood boring ship worms, the underwater part of the hull was often covered with board, tar and hair and later in the 18th century and on with iron or copper plates.
Ship´s Boy: A young servant on board a ship. See also boy
Signal Flags: Flags were used for centuries for ship to ship and ship to shore communication. They were read top to bottom and were possibly flown from halyards on all masts to convey a message or condition onboard. A vessel, usually in harbour and on special occasion may be 'dressed up' with signal flags along the entire length of the ship simply for show. Shown below is a chart of a set of early 20th century signal flags.

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Skiff: A small flat-bottomed ship's boat, having a sharp pointed bow and a square stern. Could be propelled by oars or sail.
Slave Ship: Slave ships were either purpose built or were common merchant vessels retro-fit with irons in the hold to accommodate securely holding the special 'cargo'. Slaves were often 'packed' and shackled side by side, to fit as many into the hold as possible. Life aboard a wooden vessel sailing from Africa to the Americas was perilous enough for the crew, let alone for the 'passengers' being transported below deck. Scared, cramped, sick, alone, dehumanized; the horrors slaves must have felt are unspeakable. Just enough care was taken to keep most of the slaves alive. To the slave-traders it was just a very lucrative business, instead of wheat or wool they transported and traded slaves.

Examples of a slave ship
Starboard: The right hand side of a vessel when facing forward. From earlier steerboard, the side the oar rudder was hung from.
Stores: The provisions and supplies, such as food, water, arms, sailcloth and rope on board a ship during a sea-voyage.
Sweep: A long and heavy oar used to propel a ship or boat.
Tack: Also called takke in Old English. 1. The lower, forward corner of a fore-and-aft sail. In square-rigged ships, it is the rope used to hold in the lower corners of the courses and staysails on the weather side. 2. To change the course of a vessel by shifting the position of the helm and sails, as in: tacking the ship to larboard. 3. A line used to pull the lower corner of a studding sail to its boom.
Tarides: Small sail and/or oar powered transport vessel used from the dark ages to about the late 12th century. Early medieval equivalent of a landing craft, they had doors used as ramps for loading and unloading men and their horses. Possibly derived from earlier Roman horse transports.
Tarpaulin: Waterproofed and treated canvas used for covering hatches, boats and other gear on board a ship.
Thole Pin: A vertical piece of wood against which a rowing oar pivots.
Tjalk: A Dutch flat-bottomed vessel with rounded ends and leeboards. Used to carry freight and also often used as a pleasure yacht.

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Trailboard: One of a pair of boards or a set of often gilded and elaborate carvings, located on each side of the stem 'trailing' the figurehead. A trailboard often helped to express and support the ship's name, sometimes with figures or scenes related to the figurehead. Later, simpler trailboards often have a vine or oakleaf theme.

Stream god
Stream god figurehead with crops in her trailboard

Triaconter: An ancient Greek galley with 30 oars, 15 each side set in a single bank.
Trireme: An ancient Phoenician, Greek or Roman war galley propelled by three tiers (banks) of oars on each side, each oar being pulled by a single man, used from the 7th to the 4th century BC. Upper level oarsmen were called thranites, middle level zygites and lower level oarsmen were called thalamites. The hull was shell-first, mortise-and-tenon construction, planked with fir, cedar or pine while the keel was made of oak.
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Turtle Ship: A 16th-century Korean armoured warship called Geobukseon or Kobukson in Korean. They were fitted with an iron shell top with sharp spikes, for protection and to prevent boarding. They were developed and built by Admiral YI, SOON SHIN in 1592 who led Korea to victory in the IM JIN WAR (Korea vs. Japan; 1592-1598). The hull was built from red pine and a turtle ship carried cannons with such names as Heaven and Earth, or in Korean, Chon and Ji. Comparable to the European 12pdr and 7pdr cannon respectively.
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Unship: To remove or detach a piece of equipment from its proper operating location onboard a ship. For example: The rudder can be unshipped or dislodged from its hinges.
Waist: That part of the upper deck of a vessel that has the the lowest freeboard, generally amidships.
Watch: One of the six four-hour periods or shifts of work during a day on board a seagoing vessel.
Waterway: A hollowed out channel in the outboard planks of the ship's deck to allow water on the deck to run off.
Xebec: A relatively small three-masted lateen-rigged vessel favoured by the Barbary corsairs operating off the coast of North Africa. These ships had long narrow hulls, and were fitted with oars like their galley predecessors. The xebec was adopted by the French and Spanish navies and called a chebec.

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Yardarm: Either end (outer quarter) of a yard, from the lift to the outboard end of a yard. Also yard arm.
Yawl: Originally a double-ended clinker built Scandinavian yol. Later becomes: 1. A small two-masted sailing vessel with the mizzenmast stepped astern of the rudder post. Similar to a ketch, which has its mizzenmast stepped forward of the rudder head or post.

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2. A ship's boat, smaller but similar to a pinnace, usually rowed by four to six oars.

image of yawl
Yuloh: A long oar developed by the Chinese, it is placed over the stern and used for both steering and sculling without being taken out of the water.
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